Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Teachers Find Road to Learning outside Class Sensory Path Allows Kids to Reduce Stress

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Teachers Find Road to Learning outside Class Sensory Path Allows Kids to Reduce Stress

Article excerpt

A hopscotch board, Lego wall and leapfrog footprints greeted students in Mars Area Elementary School this year.

Over the summer, fourth grade teachers Jamie Waters, Stephanie Graff and Chris Petrini installed items on the walls and floor to create a "sensory path" in one of the school's hallways.

Mrs. Waters came up with the idea after talking with someone in the corporate world who uses ellipticals and yoga balls at work to reduce stress. She began researching a low-cost solution for her students.

She came upon information for sensory paths online and worked with her two colleagues to print out, laminate and install the components of the path over the summer.

A sensory path is a playful footpath that children follow through several exercises that help to stimulate the senses, Mrs. Waters said.

"With increased stimulation of senses, connections in the brain are enabled which can increase cognitive function in the classroom. In addition to increasing cognitive function, children can practice motor skills or simply partake in the five minute brain break needed by all during the day despite age or needs," she said in an email.

The floor has regular footprints, animal tracks, planets, crab walk, a hopscotch board, and alternating decals of a frog and the log that the students hop over as the frog.

One of the walls has a mirror. Another has a Lego board with bricks, and a third has magnetic letters. There also is a spot where students can do push-ups against the wall.

As an added benefit, the teachers say the path provides some much-needed relief from the more structured classroom. Ms. Waters compared it to a child hitting the reset button in order to regain their focus.

"Sometimes, the kids say, 'Hey, I need a little break,' so they go out into the hallway and hop around," Mrs. Graff said.

Special education teachers who do occupational therapy with students also are excited about the sensory path, Mrs. …

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